Carla Dunlap : Bodybuilding For Women What’s It All About ? Muscle and Fitness Article Excerpt (1983)


Carla Dunlap was the first African American Ms. Olympia. Before Lenda Murray, Iris Kyle, and Andrea Shaw Carla made sports history. Her competitive longevity was impressive competing from the 1979 to 1993. Carla was there from the beginning and watch the sport evolve rapidly . Besides being an athlete, she also was a contributor to Muscle and Fitness. One article she wrote was “Bodybuilding For Women What’s It All About?” that appeared in 1983. At the time the sport was about six years old. The first Ms. Olympia appeared in 1980. The general public was more perplexed about the sport and some reacted negatively. What Carla Dunlap did in the text shown below was try to explain the sport and some of its benefits. Besides that, she also discusses the history related to the sport. Muscular women did exist before bodybuilding. However, women building physiques to this degree that appeared in contest from 1977 onward was a new phenomenon. The body that Carla developed is closer to the physique class of the present era. As time passed women would create a variety of physiques.

Muscle and Fitness Discuss Women’s Bodybuilding – These are some more excerpts from articles that appeared in the same issue. Celebrities were also getting involved in the rise of women’s fitness culture. The bottom image shows some notable actresses.

Women were getting involved in a variety of sports thanks to the benefits that came from Title IX and second wave feminism. An emphasis on women’s health and fitness began to rise. Carla Dunlap eloquently expresses what makes women get involved in the sport and why it makes them feel good.

Carla describes women’s desire to develop a certain aesthetic. She claims ” women across the globe discovered bodybuilding is the quickest route to a shapelier, sexier, and alluring figure.” The common argument was that bodybuilding made the female body more masculine. The opposite happens. Muscle can add shape and curves to the female body. Look at Carla’s Ms. Olympia physique as an example. Shapely legs and developed glutes are what women aim for in contemporary fitness regimens.

Carla Dunlap was featured in two documentaries Pumping Iron II and Women of Iron. She would also make numerous television appearances.

The thin body was the image of beauty. That was changing with the new muscular female aesthetic. Carla is just explaining how a female body can be made shapely from training. This is not a male image, only an enhancement of women’s figures. The legs in particular become an area of interest. Everyone has their own image of what is beautiful. These can be a wide range of perspectives. At the time the bodybuilding female physique was an image new to history. Carla Dunlap and other athletes were pioneers in this development. Benefits do come with training far beyond appearance.

Maintaining health is pivotal. Carla Dunlap reveals in the text how lifting can aid in health maintenance. Weight gain can occur throughout life. Women have a more difficult time losing weight due to sex hormones and body composition. Weightlifting and bodybuilding activities can control weight and burn fat. Carla explains this must be done with a proper diet and the correct nutritional guidelines. Exercise alone will not produce results without the correct amount of caloric consumption. Bodybuilding Carla explains builds stronger muscles and can aid in stamina. These statements have been confirmed by exercise physiology studies. Carla Dunlap was correct in saying that it can vastly improve women’s lives. Bone and muscle health are important as we age. Overtime musculoskeletal mass decreases, which will effect mobility. The more research conducted further proves that exercise is good for health. Exercise can add years to life. This might also protect against cognitive decline and chronic illness.

Carla Dunlap mentions that women were using weights before the birth of female bodybuilding. Sports historians discuss the strongwomen and acrobats of the 19th century has the early bodybuilding athletes. Women were active in the physical culture movement. The problem was that women with high amounts of talent did not have a place for competition. They were either regulated to circus performance, music halls, and vaudeville venues.

The female athlete to the 19th to 21st century. The women have become bigger and stronger than in the past.

Changes in laws and culture allowed women to advance in sports. African American women had more opportunities for sports competition in historically black colleges. Some of the African American female athletes of HBCUs would go on to compete in the Olympics. This was before Title IX. Although African American female athletes had to deal with sexism of the 20th century, racism became a more dangerous matter. Athletes attempting to integrate sports faced death threats and violence from fans. The civil rights movement was able to dismantle the legalized racial caste system in the US. American sports were more accessible to African American women. Laws may have changed, but racism and sexism did not disappear. Despite obstacles, African American women were making a major impact in sports. Carla Dunlap’s success was a representation of African American women becoming more visible in the sports world.

Carla Dunlap makes an observation about the image of female physical strength. Certain men object to it, because it makes them feel less in control of women. Carla puts it best saying “women were expected to be weak so men could feel twice as strong.” The notion that women needed to be controlled was a common belief. The women’s rights movement and sexual revolution gave women more independence and freedom. A silent revolution was happening with women’s bodies. The emphasis on building muscle and strength has challenged ideas about what women are physically capable of. The combination of strength, muscle, and the feminine form has generated much discussion. Carla Dunlap describes a time when exercise for women was just to create a trim figure. The modern sportswoman wants to push their body to its physical fitness maximum. Female celebrities were also getting active in fitness to improve their figures. Women can exercise for health maintenance, sports competition, or recreation. The result of women being more active in sports competition is a new image of the female body. Carla mentions that a ” biological code” can be manipulated. Training, diet, and sports nutrition produced the a female physique that has not been seen in earlier parts of human history. Carla Dunlap was a harbinger of this new look . She could be considered female bodybuilding’s Alice Coachmen. Carla’s contributions are significant to female bodybuilding history. The evolution of the muscular female physique is still happening and it is not certain what the final product will be.

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